National championship chatter already audible in KU camp
As many of you probably know, the Kansas men’s basketball team often breaks down the end of each practice with a simple and strong chant of “Big 12 champs.”
For the past 13 seasons (and counting), that target goal has proven profitable, with the Jayhawks winning a record-tying 13 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles and currently beginning the early tune-ups to gun for No. 14 and the record all to themselves during the upcoming 2017-18 season.
The theory within the program always has and continues to go something like this: Win the Big 12 and you’ll position yourselves well to achieve all of the goals that follow — No. 1 seed, Final Four, national championship.
Obviously, that last part is always the goal for the Jayhawks. And, at a place like Kansas, it’s often a realistic goal. But it’s not always openly talked about before and during the season. Again, the idea is for the team to take care of the games that are right in front of them and attack the postseason when they get there.
This year, however, things might be a little different.
Speaking with reporters Monday afternoon, after Day 1 of the Jayhawks’ annual boot camp conditioning session, senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk uttered those very words — national championship — on two separate occasions in six minutes.
“The main goal is to win a national championship,” answered Mykhailiuk when asked if he had any goals for the upcoming season. “That’s what we’re trying to do every year, and to win the Big 12.”
When informed that the question was about his own personal goals, the Ukrainian senior obliged and simply said, “Just to improve everything and be a better player and a teammate.”
That was the second reference. The first came when he was asked about Day 1 of boot camp and just how difficult it was this time around, the fourth such boot camp battle for Mykhailiuk.
His answer again pointed to the team first and the gains the group was getting from going through Self’s vicious two-week boot camp.
“It’s getting us better so it doesn’t matter what we’re doing,” he said. “In the long run, it’s going to help us win a national championship, the Big 12, anything we’re gonna win if we want to win.”
While the lofty goal of winning it all and bringing another banner back to Allen Fieldhouse hardly comes as a surprise, it is noteworthy that Mykhailiuk was so open in talking about it. The reason for that seemed simple enough and also was addressed by the senior guard.
“We talk about it,” he said. “The past two years we were pretty close to the Final Four. This year, we just gotta get there. We were one step away (the past two seasons) and we felt like we should’ve been there, but we didn’t make it for some reason.”
Mykhailiuk's brief mentions of a national championship likely do not signify a change in philosophy for the Kansas program. This team, no doubt, will still continue to emphasize taking care of business in the Big 12 and will probably continue to break down the end of practices with that "Big 12 champs" call.
That's just the way the program does things and that's the way the program will continue to do things as long as Bill Self is the man in charge.
But that doesn't mean the seniors and other players who might feel as if the upcoming season is their final shot at the big prize aren't thinking bigger, even if it is for just a few minutes in mid-September. And that, too, makes perfect sense. After all, winning it all is the ultimate goal for every team out there and spending at least some time thinking about it and pursuing it as a goal is human nature.
Whether the Jayhawks make it to the Final Four (and perhaps beyond) this season remains to be seen. But I’m sure more than a few folks out there already have imagined how cool it would be for the 2017-18 Jayhawks to honor the 10-year anniversary of KU’s most recent national championship team by returning to San Antonio, the scene of the 2007-08 squad’s finest achievements, for the 2018 Final Four.